Homeopathic Remedies

  • Homeopathy: A Prescription for Pain Relief

    Homeopathy can be a difficult treatment modality to understand. If you’ve never tried it, you might wonder how exactly those little pellets can be so effective. But many people find them to be just that.

    In fact, approximately 100 million Europeans use homeopathic medicines—and even more in India. In France, homeopathy is the leading alternative medicine, and a good portion of Italians who use homeopathic remedies do so for pain relief. (Find more information about homeopathy’s popularity here.)

    “When it works, it’s the closest thing to magic that I’ve seen,” says Dr. Melissa Gastellum, naturopathic doctor at our Los Angeles store. “The trick is finding the right preparation for the person.” We spoke more with Dr. Gastellum about how homeopathy can be a helpful addition to your summer first aid.

    Homeopathy 101
    Homeopathy is a centuries-old practice that’s based on the concept that “like cures like.” Founder Samuel Hahnemann believed that by introducing a catalyst similar to the symptom, your body’s healing response would kick into high gear and speed up the natural process of getting rid of the sickness.

    “Take an onion—if you’re chopping one, your symptoms are going to be itchy, burning eyes and runny nose,” says Dr. Gastellum. Sound kind of like allergy symptoms? “The theory is that if you take onion in a minute dose, it will match your symptoms and help you resolve the issues. So for people with allergies, they may do well taking homeopathic onion, Allium cepa.” (Find Boiron's Allium cepa at Pharmaca.)

    According to founder Samuel Hahnemann’s original theories, the more diluted a substance (such as an herbal extract), the more “potent” it becomes, as the essence or energy of the substance intensifies. The potentization process involves diluting the substance, usually with distilled water or ethyl alcohol, in varying amounts.

    Why homeopathy works for pain
    From yardwork to hiking to swimming, spring activities can make us all a little more prone to hurting ourselves. For Dr. Gastellum, homeopathics are generally the first treatment she turns to for bumps and bruises that come from summer fun.

    “If it’s an acute sprain or strain, I recommend Traumeel or Boiron’s Arnicare,” says Dr. Gastellum. She recommends applying Traumeel, a topical cream or gel, to the affected area 4-6 times per day. But, she adds, “I’ve seen the best results when someone uses homeopathy both topically and orally. As a combo, there’s more of a chance of one of those matching your symptoms.”

    She usually starts people on oral preparations of Boiron's Arnicare at 30C, under the tongue three times per day, and then changes the dosages as needed. If they’ve taken those two and still have issues, Dr. Gastellum also recommends Boiron’s Ruta Gravolens or Rhus Toxicodendron, which are good when you feel stiff in the morning but loosen up with movement. If any movement is painful, try Boiron’s Bryonia Alba. And you can always speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about your specific symptoms to find the best remedy.

    One of the best parts about homeopathy? “It’s incredibly safe,” says Dr. Gastellum. “Most preparations are incredibly dilute and don’t cause any side effects.”

    If you’ve never tried homeopathy, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about remedies that might work for your summertime aches and pains.

  • A Holistic Approach to Stress

    Whether you need just a few extra minutes of calm in your day or more long-term stress relief, Pharmaca offers a variety of different approaches to beating anxiety. And don’t forget—helping your body better cope with stress can go a long way toward optimal health and reducing your risk for chronic conditions like cancer, obesity and heart disease.

    The Herbal Approach
    When it comes to stress-fighting herbs, Cassy Dymond, ND at our Seattle - Wallingford location, says her go-tos are passionflower, lemon balm and milky oats. “WishGarden Herbs has some really nice formulas,” says Cassy. Deep Stress, for example, contains herbs like nettles, oat seed, thyme, bladder wrack and skullcap—“a really great herb for stress. This one is ideal when you have stress and anxiety with agitation and a hard time falling asleep,” says Cassy. She also likes their Emotional Ally, which can be helpful when you’re going through a difficult period in life, like a personal or professional change. That one also includes skullcap and St. John’s wort.

    In addition to calm-inducing herbs, says Cassy, “My tendency is to look for herbs that are supportive to the adrenals. If someone is stressed out it’s important to address the adrenal glands, too.” That’s when she turns to adaptogenic herbs like ashwaghanda, eleuthero and rhodiola, found in Gaia Herbs’ Adrenal Health and Vitanica’s Adrenal Assist.

    The Vitamins & Supplements Approach
    “B vitamins are also hugely important regarding stress,” says Cassy. “They are co-factors in so many different cellular processes, and when we’re stressed, we burn through B5 and B6 more quickly.” Look for B complexes from Thorne Research, MegaFood or New Chapter.

    Two more to add to the stress-fighting toolkit, according to Cassy: vitamin C, which offers good antioxidant support during times of stress, and magnesium, which can be help relaxing the muscles and offer physical calm.

    The Homeopathic Approach
    This subtle, gentle form of healing can work on very specific forms of stress.  Elizabeth Vassar, homeopath at our Brentwood store, tells us about some of her favorites.

    Ignatia amara: “This is one of my number ones for coping with sudden disappointment or loss, such as the ending of a relationship,” says Elizabeth.

    Natrum muriaticum: “This is good for people who have a tendency toward mild to moderate depression,” she says.

    Kali phosphoricum: Elizabeth commonly recommends this for overworked people. “I usually give it to people who are tired of their job! It helps calm the nerves.”

    Bryonia Alba: This is good for someone who has suffered big losses—like their job, a home, etc., and is experiencing depression because of it, says Elizabeth.

    Arsenicum album: “This is for the people who worry about everything!” says Elizabeth.

    Because homeopathy is so specialized to each person’s individual needs, it’s best to speak with a homeopathic practitioner at Pharmaca about proper strengths and dosages.

    The Flower Essence Approach
    Much like homeopathy, flower essences are made via multiple dilutions of flower, tree and bush extracts, and work on an energetic level. In the 1920s, British homeopath Edward Bach isolated 38 flower essences that he felt were especially helpful in balancing emotions—making them ideal for beating stress.

    Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flower essences, is a best-selling stress-relief option. “Rescue Remedy is designed for immediate relief from stress or some kind of trauma,” says Lindsay Fontana, homeopath at our Santa Fe store.  “Sometimes when you can just get a little distance from things, you can find more peace. And that’s what Rescue Remedy really gives you.” Available in drops, as a spray and in tasty pastilles, the formula includes five flowers: rock rose, clematis, impatiens, cherry plum and star of Bethlehem.

    Lindsay cites a few other individual flower essences that can be helpful for different stressful scenarios:

    Aspen is good for stress—literally for fears and worries of unknown origin

    Cherry Plum is for fear of losing control

    Elm is for when you’re overwhelmed by responsibility

    Honeysuckle helps when you’re dwelling on the past

    Pine relieves self-reproach or guilt

    Again, because of the specialized nature of these essences, it’s best to work with a Pharmaca practitioner on choosing individual products.

  • Your Homeopathic First Aid Kit

    Heading into the great outdoors for some summer fun? Pack along a different kind of first aid kit, filled with homeopathic remedies that can help soothe the whole family. We got advice from Peter Borregard, homeopath and lead practitioner at our Berkeley store, and Karin DiGiacomo, German Heilpraktiker at our south Boulder store, about what to pack.

    Herb Pharm’s Calendula Succus: Dilute this herbal tincture and carry in a spray bottle to mist on wounds or sunburns to heal and soothe. Note: tinctures can lose their potency if overheated, so try and keep in a cool place.

    Boericke & Tafel’s Califlora Calendula Gel: Often recommended by our practitioners for after-sun care, calendula gel can also be applied to cuts and wounds to offer fast relief.

    Boiron’s Arnica: In pellets or in a cream, Arnica should be your first step after an injury to reduce bruising and swelling. Take it internally for severe pain, or just apply to sore muscles or bruises to speed healing.

    Boericke & Tafel’s Ssssting Stop & Boiron’s Apis Mellifica: This combo is ideal for relieving the pain, itching and swelling of insect bites and stings. Apply Ssssting Stop for immediate relief, and take Apis 6C or 3OC, and Histiminum 6 or 30, internally, to help ease pain.

    Boiron’s Belladonna: This one’s great to have around for heat stroke as well as headaches that can come from a severe sunburn. Note: Make sure you see a doctor for serious heat stroke symptoms.

    Boiron’s Rhus Toxicodendron: This common remedy, made from poison ivy, can help modify the allergic reaction to both poison ivy and poison oak and “take the edge off” itching and inflammation.

    Other first aid kit must-haves

    Blairex Saline Wound Wash: When clean water and soap are hard to come by,  “It’s great for clearing the wound out quickly,” says Peter.

    All Terrain Bandages: Made with recycled PVC plastic and a water-based adhesive, these bandages are good for the environment and won’t irritate skin.

    Herb Pharm Ed’s Salve: A combination of comfrey, St. John’s wort, calendula and other soothing herbs, this tiny tin offers pocket-sized relief for sunburns, blisters and wounds.

    CharcoCaps: Take a few of these with you for fast relief for intestinal issues (from too many s’mores to unfiltered water).

    Talk to a Pharmaca practitioner about other first-aid kit must-haves for your summer outings.

  • Aching for Arnica

    Ah, summer weekends. They can be filled with exciting activities, but also with the potential for sprained ankles and bruised knees. Get ahead of the game with Arnica, one of the most common ingredients in pain-relieving homeopathic remedies.

    What is Arnica?

    Arnica (full name: Arnica montana) grows naturally in Europe, the northern U.S., Canada and eastern Asia, and has been used both topically and orally for centuries as a remedy for sprains and bruises. Arnica is also used at full strength in herbal formulations, but is diluted according to homeopathic principles in most over-the-counter preparations on the market today.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, the homeopathic approach uses “minute doses of a substance [such as Arnica] that cause symptoms to stimulate the body’s self-healing response.” The minute doses are created through a precise process in which a substance is diluted, usually with distilled water or ethyl alcohol, in varying amounts. Homeopathy founder Samuel Hahnemann believed that the more repetitions of the dilution, the stronger the potency, since the vital essence or energy of the substance would intensify.

    In arnica’s case, its herbal properties stimulate blood flow to the trauma—be it a sprained ankle, overworked joints or a bruised knee—and help the body work harder to heal itself. “Doctors are beginning to write prescriptions for arnica, especially before surgery,” says Bonnie Edmunds, homeopath at our La Jolla store. Arnica, she says, helps speed recovery and reduce bruising and swelling.

    Common uses

    For everyday bumps and bruises, Edmunds recommends the Arnica bonus pack from Boiron, Arnica 30C pellets, which are taken sublingually (under the tongue). “The pellets are helpful if the pain and bruising covers a wide area of the body,” says Bonnie. “They can be taken orally three times a day within the first few days, and the gel, because it’s not as potent, can be applied as often as needed.” Bonnie also loves Topricin, a cream that combines Arnica with homeopathic Rhus Toxicodendron and Ruta Graveolens and is very helpful for pain and inflammation.

    When summer activities lead to soreness and pain in the muscles specifically, Bonnie likes Recovery Rub by All Terrain, which combines the healing properties of Arnica with cooling menthol that soothes tired muscles. She also recommends a homeopathic formulation of Magnesia phosphorica, which is good for muscle recovery, or Hypericum perforatum if there’s associated nerve pain.

    For those bound for exercise this weekend, Boiron Sportenine can be taken sublingually before and after a workout. Sportenine includes Arnica, Zinc and Sarcolacticum to ease fatigue, soreness and cramps.

    “The beauty of homeopathy is that it can be taken safely by anyone from babies to the elderly,” says Bonnie. Because Arnica can be found in multiple strengths and preparations, Bonnie advises speaking with a licensed homeopath to figure out the best delivery method and potency level for your needs.

    To find out if Arnica or another homeopathic remedy might be right for your pain relief, speak with a homeopath at your nearest Pharmaca.

  • Studies Show Homeopathics for Ear Infection Superior to Antibiotics

    Most children, at some point, develop an earache that's often caused by an infection in the ear canal. Concerned parents then call the child’s pediatrician, and if the doctor does find the child has an ear infection, they'll usually prescribe an antibiotic medicine. You may, instead, want to try homeopathic remedies for ear infections.

    But parents should take note: A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicated that homeopathic remedies for ear infections, such as those found at Pharmaca, really help.  Homeopathic treatments for ear infection are safe, effective and produce no side effects, making this approach to healing an appealing solution for worried parents.

    An earlier study, published in 1997 in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, divided 131 children into two groups, receiving either homeopathic treatment or antibiotic treatment. The study showed that the children receiving homeopathic treatment recovered an average of one day faster than the children who received antibiotics. In yet another study in 2001, the British Homeopathic Journal compared homeopathic treatment for ear infection to placebo treatment in 230 kids with acute ear infection. Again, the children in the homeopathic group recovered more quickly—after only 12 hours, 72 percent of them recovered 2.4 times faster than the children receiving the placebo.

    Homeopathic Treatments for Ear Infection

    The research shows that homeopathic remedies can be hugely successful in treating ear infections in children, so before you get any prescriptions filled, you may want to consider these safer, effective options:

    • Homeopathic ear drops— Comprised of many different natural ingredients that are used to safely and effectively relieve the pain often associated with an ear infection.
    • Homeopathic earache tablets—Taken orally to relieve pain quickly and safely with no side effects.
    • Belladonna—Derived from the plant of the same name. This remedy is used to treat a variety of ailments and is indicated for earaches causing severe pain, ear redness and fever.
    • Hepar Sulphuris Calcareum—A mixture of finely powdered oyster shells and pure flowers that is indicated for severe earaches accompanied by a thick, colored discharge from the nose or ears.
    • Pulsatilla—A combination of more than 30 species of herbaceous perennials that is helpful for earaches accompanied by a yellow or green discharge from the ears or nose.

    As with all homeopathic remedies, please consult your doctor before administering them to children. And as always, you can always speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about dosing and administration questions.

  • Tired of Being Tired? Fall Asleep with All-Natural Sleep Aids

    There's nothing more refreshing and invigorating than waking from a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, sleeping soundly and regularly doesn't come easily for many people. If you suffer from bouts of insomnia or have trouble staying asleep, you may be one of the millions of people who turn to medications to induce sleep. Unfortunately, there are some risks that go along with taking prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills, one of which is feeling groggy the next day. All natural sleep aids produce no side effects the morning after.

    You may have heard of benzodiazepines—a class of drugs prescribed for many conditions including anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms and difficulty sleeping. While benzodiazepines may put you to sleep, they can be extremely habit forming. If used long enough on a nightly basis, they will often cause tolerance, dependence, withdrawal and rebound insomnia.

    If you need better sleep but aren't excited about prescription drugs, Pharmaca carries healthy, safe alternatives that actually work. All natural sleep aids, also referred to as “herbal” sleep aids, have become an extremely popular choice for treating insomnia without dangerous side effects.

    Some herbs contain natural sleep aids that help you get to sleep naturally. Herbal sleep remedies produce the same calming effects as prescription medications, but with no harmful side effects. If you have struggled with sleep and want a natural but effective solution, ask a Pharmaca practitioner about these very popular, highly effective herbal remedies for sleep:

    If you're having trouble sleeping, check out Pharmaca's full line of safe, natural and effective all natural sleep aids that won’t leave you feeling groggy and won't create dependence or tolerance.

  • Ask Pharmaca: I need gluten-free cold remedies!

    We get questions nearly every day via Ask a Practitioner from people with a variety of health concerns. Our practitioners take turns answering these questions, offering advice based on their experience and expertise. Each week we'll be posting some of these questions with the hopes that our practitioners' advice can help answer some of your health questions.

    Q. I need a cough drop and nasal decongestant that are gluten free. Because of my sensitivities, and because most medications have these ingredients, I always get stuck with a cold without relief!

    A. Pharmaca has a number of gluten-free products to help with allergy and cold symptoms. For cough drops I would recommend Herbal Lozenges by Zand. They’re sweetened with brown rice syrup and come in many flavors such as Elderberry with Zinc and Umckaloabo, an African Cherry.

    We also have many zinc lozenges, which are always effective against a cold or flu. My favorite are the Wellness Zinc Lozenges by Source Naturals, which contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. I would also recommend one of our herbal throat sprays, such as a propolis throat spray, to deliver the medicine to the throat and gain some relief.

    As for a decongestant, one of the most popular is Astragalus. It has deep immune-boosting properties and Pharmaca makes a certified organic brand in both tincture and capsule form. Gaia Herbs also makes a great product called Respiratory Defense, which is an all-natural herbal formula to aid in mucus secretions.

    Another suggestion is MucoStop by Enzymedica, which is made from plant enzymes and acts as a decongestant. It contains no artificial ingredients, or allergens such as soy, yeast, wheat or corn.

    -Shannon Wood, Naturopath, Menlo Park Pharmaca

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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